Live concerts return to Neepawa


The sound of music will once again fill the hills of Neepawa with the return of the Kaleidoscope Concert Series.

It’s a fantastic feeling to know that live concerts are returning to the stage after more than a year of silence due to the COVID-19 pandemic, said Kaleidoscope volunteer Ron Nordstrom. Kaleidoscope members have carefully crafted a season of audience entertainment focused on supporting Manitoba musicians and providing them with a platform at the Roxy Theatre.

“There is a wide range of options for Manitoba musicians. If you’re looking for hip-hop artists or country artists, or whatever, there are so many musicians in Manitoba to choose from,” Nordstrom said. “We try to attract local talent.

He hopes the first gig, Leaf Rapids, will be a chance to test the waters and show he’s safe to return to live music in the community.

A small benefit concert with about 100 people was held for the Roxy Theater before the Leaf Rapids show, he said, and the volunteers were able to learn from the experience. Nordstrom added that the Roxy Theater is a nonprofit in the community and, like many others, had very little revenue during the global health crisis.

Leaf Rapids marked Kaleidoscope’s first concert since the pandemic began, performing at the theater on November 8.

“These are the first steps in getting people back,” Nordstrom said.

Planning for the 2021-22 Kaleidoscope concert series has been difficult due to the uncertainty created by COVID-19, he said.

Proof of full vaccination will be required along with photo ID. Masks must also be worn for the duration of the concert and several hand sanitizing stations will be available.

Ticket sales for the new season have been weak, Nordstrom said, but he hopes to see excitement grow with each concert.

“I think [audiences] must be built. Ticket sales have not reached their usual level at this point,” Nordstrom said. He added that the 2021-22 season is also in a unique situation as Kaleidoscope will not be offering subscriptions due to the uncertainty created by COVID-19 public health regulations.

Organizers have chosen to sell tickets for individual concerts in case they encounter restrictions requiring the cancellation of events.

Nordstrom said he sensed some hesitation from potential audiences — whether those concerned about congregating in large crowds, or others resisting wearing a mask for an extended period of time.

“Personally, I’ve been to several gigs before and had to wear my mask for the duration of the gig. It’s a bit uncomfortable but it’s no worse than people working in retail who have to wear their mask for an eight-hour shift,” Nordstrom said. “It’s a slight inconvenience, it’s not a big deal.”

For now, Kaleidoscope volunteers are grateful to be able to once again host live music and have the band in town for the first post-pandemic gig, after the heartbreak of seeing the 2020 season cancelled.

In 2020, the entire concert series from October to March was canceled due to the pandemic.

It was a disappointing time, Nordstrom said, as he looked forward to sharing the music of Manitoba-based Leaf Rapids and others with residents of the Westman area. A number of artists taking part in 2021-22 were due to appear last year, while others were recently added to the roster.

Logistical planning for the new season was complicated, he said, and part of adjusting to the reality of COVID had limited the series to Manitoba-based artists.

Nordstrom added that Kaleidoscope does not expect to break even this year, but sees it as an opportunity to rebuild its audience.

“They need to have the confidence to go out, and I think for a little while musicians and venues will have to work on building the confidence of viewers to get them out and see live events,” Nordstrom said “When you come out of those things, you feel good.

While he appreciates being able to watch events online, it doesn’t offer the same energy and excitement as getting together with others to enjoy a special performance. Nordstrom said it can benefit mental health by being part of a connected community at a concert, especially for those who experienced extreme isolation during COVID-19.

“You energize yourself,” Nordstrom said.

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Manitoba Country Music Awards fan favorite Kendra Kay will be performing the series next, at the Roxy Theater on December 7.


Twitter: @The_ChelseaKemp


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